Gadgets and Tools Tips

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What kind of tape measure do I need?

Tape Measure

It is important to have an accurate tape measure. Tape measures stretch out of shape and become distorted with wear. Lay your tape measure on a ruler to check for accuracy. Replace it as needed. Avoid rolling up your tape measure, this will stretch and twist it out of shape.

   
How do I hold the fabric in place?

Basting Tape

Basting tape is thin double-sided tape used to temporarily hold fabric, zippers, and trims in place until they are permanently stitched in place. Basting tape allows you to re-position until you get everything in the right place. It holds more smoothly and consistently than pins. Basting tape is very useful in matching stripes and plaids.

   
How do I mark the fabric?

Soap

Soap slivers work well for marking fabric. Only use plain soap that does not have added oils and moisturizers. The small bars of soap found in hotels work great. After you have used the soap until it is thin with sharp edges, let it dry out and use it for fabric marking. You can sharpen the edges with a razor blade or a nail file.

   
How do I mark the fabric?

Tailor's Chalk

Tailor's chalk is a wax based marker. It comes in several colors, however, only white should be used in garment marking; the other colors are used for pattern and muslin marking. The wax markings will last longer than chalk and can be removed from some fabrics, with a warm iron. Be sure to test on a fabric scrap first.

   
Do I need a needle threader?

Needle Threader

Keep a package of needle threaders handy. Even if you are good at threading needles, there is always that difficult or thicker thread that is impossible to get through the eye of the needle. A needle threader can also be used to pull snags through to the wrong side of the fabric.

   
What kind of thimble should I use?

Thimble Pads

Small leather and plastic pads with adhesive backs are available for finger protection when hand sewing. These thimble pads work well for people that do not feel that they have enough control while wearing a thimble. You need to be consistent in how you push the needle during hand sewing to get proper placement of the pad.

   
What kind of needles should I use for hand sewing?

Replace Needles

Hand sewing needles need to be sharp for sewing ease and smooth hand stitching. Not only are dull needles difficult to work with, they cause thread to fray and material to snag. Check hand sewing needles for burrs and replace them often.

   
What measuring tools should I have?

Flexible Ruler

A see-through plastic ruler with eighth inch grid markings is a must for the serious sewer. These rulers allow you to lay the ruler over the edge and see what you are marking. The grid marks help to keep things aligned straight while marking.

   
What is a third hand?

Third Hand

A third hand, also referred to as a bird and clamp, is handy tool when you need that extra hand to hold something. This device is a spring-closed clip, attached to a table by a screw-fixed clamp. The clip anchors the fabric you are working with. The presser foot on your machine can also be used as a “third hand” to hold the fabric stable.

   
How do I mark the fabric?

Water-Erasable Pen

There are water-erasable marking pens. The ink in these pens is water soluble. Test on a scrap of fabric to make sure the ink does not stain and that water marks do not show. Remove the marks before ironing.

   
What measuring tools should I have?

Seam Gauge

A seam gauge is a six inch ruler with a sliding marker to keep track of the exact measurement you are using. This small gauge is a quick and accurate measuring device. Most seam gauges are made out of a thin metal so they are easy to bend out of shape.
For accuracy, replace when it gets bent or the sliding marker gets loose.

   
What kind of pin cushion should I get?

Magnetic Pin Cushion

Magnetic pin cushions are a wonderful accessory. This pin cushion makes picking up and putting pins down so much easier. You can just drop the pins on this large magnetic disc and they will stick. Just turn the pin cushion upside down and move over the table or floor to pick up your pins.

   
What kind of cutting equipment should I use?

Rotary Cutter

A rotary cutter looks like a pizza cutter. The round blade is razor sharp and can cut through many layers of fabric quickly and accurately. Rotary cutters come in several different sized blades. You must have a special cutting mat underneath the fabric when cutting. Rotary cutters work best on straight edges when used in conjunction with a ruler as a cutting guide.

   
How do I hold the pattern in place?

Weights

Pattern weights can make cutting faster than pinning. Be careful when using weights; they are not as stable as pins. Weights can be purchased; however, household items can be used as weights. Cans of food make great weights. Small bottles or containers can be filled with rice or stones to make inexpensive weights.

   
What are some useful tools to have for sewing?

Bodkin

A bodkin is a small tool that looks like a miniature set of tongs that lock into place. This is an indispensable gadget for threading elastic, cording, or ribbon through a casing.

   
What is a point turner?

Point Turner

Point turners are usually made of plastic or bamboo. A point turner is a tool that is used to push out corners and points without making holes in the fabric. It is much better and safer to use a point turner, rather than a seam ripper or the tip of a scissors, for this task.

   
How do I hold the fabric in place?

Fabric Glue

Fabric glue is a time saving method to replace pinning and basting. A regular glue stick can also be used for this purpose. Fabric glue can be used as a permanent “stitching” method of leather, vinyl, felt, and some trims.

   
How do I keep my thread from getting tangled up?

Beeswax

Beeswax will strengthen your thread and eliminate twisting when hand sewing. Just pull the thread across the edge of the wax to pick up a light coat of wax. Pressing the waxed thread with a warm iron will eliminate wax residue on the fabric.

   
How do I mark the fabric?

Dressmaker's Chalk

Dressmaker chalk is a clay chalk that comes in many colors. White is the safest and easiest for removal. Be sure to test on a fabric scrap before using to make it doesn't stain.

   
What kind of cutting equipment should I use?

Scissor Care

Keep your scissors and shears dry to avoid corrosion. Wipe lint from the blades frequently. Have the blades sharpened often; dull blades can damage the scissors as well as the fabric. Oil the hinge or pivot point often.

   
How do I sew over thick seams?

Hump Jumper

The hump jumper is a handy little tool that will save much frustration when sewing over thick seams. It works as a lever, keeping the presser foot level with the height of the seam. Start by using it in back of the foot to raise it to the height of the seam. Next, bring it to the front to hold the foot up so it doesn't fall off the edge of the seam.

   
How do I mark the fabric?

Tracing Paper

The tracing paper is placed between the fabric and pattern piece with the transfer color toward the fabric. A wheel is used to press down on the pattern marking to be transferred. Tracing paper comes in a variety of colors and the markings can be permanent. There are some newer tracing papers with removable markings.

   
How do I cut open buttonholes?

Buttonhole Scissors

There are special scissors for cutting buttonholes. These scissors have a set screw that prevents the blades from closing and cutting beyond the set length. These scissors work well for buttonholes set perpendicular to the fabric edge, but are difficult to use for buttonholes that are parallel to the fabric edge.

   
What kind of thimble should I use?

Thimble

A thimble is a must for hand sewing. The thimble should fit snugly on the middle finger. There are a variety of types of thimbles. Metal thimbles come with closed ends or open ends, which are perfect for long fingernails. Quilters generally use leather thimbles, which can be made of soft, but sturdy leather or soft leather with a metal pad inset for pushing.

   
What kind of cutting equipment should I use?

Thread Clippers

Thread clippers are a small sharp scissors with blades that are held open by a spring mechanism. They are small enough to be held in your hand while working, and will cut threads by using a squeezing motion. They make thread clipping quick and easy.

   
What kind of cutting equipment should I use?

Dressmaker Shears

A good quality pair of shears is essential for sewing. Bent-handled shears are best because they allow the fabric to lie flat while you are cutting. Shears must be kept sharp; only use them for sewing. Most seamstresses prefer shears that are seven and eight inches in length.

   
How do I cut open buttonholes?

Buttonhole Chisel

This buttonhole chisel has a very sharp blade and comes with a small block of wood to set beneath the buttonhole when cutting. It is a fast and easy way to cut smooth and straight buttonhole openings without cutting into the buttonhole threads.

   
What kind of seam ripper should I get?

Seam Ripper

A good seam ripper has a sharp smooth point and a razor sharp cutting edge in the curve. Seam rippers with flat handles are less likely to roll onto the floor and save you from needless frustration. Replace your seam ripper when it gets dull.

   
How do I mark the fabric?

Disappearing Ink Pen

Disappearing ink or air-erasable marking pens are great when you need to mark on the outside of the garment. These ink marks fade away with time. They will fade faster when it is hot and humid, so be careful that you don't lose your markings before you use them. The pen marks can be removed with water. Test for staining on a scrap of fabric.

   
What kind of cutting equipment should I use?

Scissors

A four to five inch embroidery scissors or tailor point scissors is needed for clipping and trimming. It will also be easier to handle for hand sewing.

   
What kind of pins should I use?

Pins

Use stainless steel, fine point dressmaker pins for sewing. Longer pins with glass or plastic heads are easier to work with and easier to find when you drop them. Have a large quantity of pins and throw out any pin that is dull, bent, or has a burr. Damaged pins can snag and ruin fine fabrics. Test for burrs by pulling the pin along the edge of a fingernail or your front teeth.

   
What kind of cutting equipment should I use?

Cutting Board

Cardboard cutting boards are available for purchase at most fabric stores. These mats will protect the surface of your dining room table if you do not have a cutting table. They are also handy if you have to cut on the floor. These are not the cutting boards that are used for rotary cutters.

   
What kind of cutting equipment should I use?

Pinking Shears

Pinking shears are a special shears with a notched or zigzag blade. They can be used to finish the fabric edges to prevent fraying. Never use these shears to cut out a pattern; it is too difficult to match up the pinked edges for accurate seams. The blades of pinking shears become dull much more frequently than straight edge shears and are expensive to have sharpened.

   
How do I mark the fabric?

Tracing Wheels

Tracing wheels come with smooth, serrated or stiletto edges. Serrated and stiletto edges are better for transferring markings. Use a smooth wheel when the fabric is extremely delicate.

   
What measuring tools should I have?

Yardstick

It is important to have a yardstick or longer ruler. This measuring tool is necessary for longer measuring tasks, such as measuring from the floor to the hemline and extending a grain line.

   
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